Oregon should learn from others’ bad green energy policies

Sen Doug Whitsett

by Sen. Doug Whitsett

Oregon’s Democrat leadership has demonstrated resolute determination to implement policies under the guise of protecting our environment that are tantamount to social engineering. Examples are numerous.

During the 2015 legislative session, the controversial Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) was enacted. Again in 2016, the so-called “Coal to Clean” bill was passed and signed into law by Governor Kate Brown.

These kind of policies are not new to Oregon. Citizens in other nations whose leaders have decided to take them down a similar path are finding the costs prohibitive while the benefits are not measurable. We can expect similar policies will have little, if any, environmental benefits for Oregonians, while causing significant negative economic consequences.

It was promised the LCFS would bring jobs and prosperity to Oregon. Opponents claimed it would drive up motor fuel costs for the benefit of out-of-state suppliers while doing nothing to improve our state highways and little to improve our environment. It is now reported the LCFS is resulting in ethanol being imported into Oregon from other states, primarily in the Midwest.

Similar policies lead to the expansion of the Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) program that will cost Oregon taxpayers more than $1 billion. A recent independent audit of the BETC program raised serious questions regarding how it was handled by multiple state agencies and what benefits Oregonians may actually expect to receive.

Democrat leaders appear to make every effort to ensure that Oregon is the “first” to implement many of these kinds of energy policies. However, several have been attempted elsewhere and officials from those areas are now realizing the folly of rushing headfirst into such agendas without due diligence. Their harmful effects on the public interest are becoming apparent.

This recent article details the tremendous costs of the “green energy transition” in Germany. It has already cost the nation around 150 billion euros and is projected to cost a total of 520 billion euros by the year 2025, or around 25,000 euros for a family of four. During the following decade, their “transition” effort is projected to cost an additional 370 billion euros, adding another 6,300 euros per capita.

The structure of the programs driving the untenable cost to Germans is eerily similar to what Democrat leaders are imposing on Oregonians. German leadership imposed a surcharge to subsidize green energy production. That surcharge had cost 125 billion euros by the end of last year. That figure is expected to escalate to 408 billion, making about 80 percent of the total 520 billion euro cost due to the surcharge.

The same article also states that the nation’s CO2 emissions are the same as they were in 2009. It quotes an official as saying that Germany “saved zero tons of CO2—for a lot of money.”

In July 2014, the Australian Senate voted to repeal that nation’s carbon tax.

Australia has the world’s 12th largest economy and was determined to be one of the largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases due to its many coal burning stations. Starting in 2007, political leaders in Australia began proposing a carbon tax and the kind of “coal-to-clean” legislation passed in Oregon earlier this year.

Then-Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd referred to climate change as the “greatest moral challenge of our time” and pledged that signing the Kyoto Treaty would be one of his first acts in office.

Australia’s Labor Party promised, when introducing their proposals, they would slash emissions 160 million metric tons by the year 2020. Tax breaks and welfare payments were offered to the public as part of a promise to offset the increased cost of energy, products and services. These appear to be features of the carbon cap and trade bill to be introduced next year in the Oregon Legislative Assembly.

However, the global financial crisis hit in 2008. Australia’s decade-long mining boom ended around 2012. Voters began blaming their new climate change laws for their rising costs of living. Three Australian leaders fell from power due to their support of these programs.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott made campaign pledges to prioritize economic growth over climate policies. He has been quoted as referring to the carbon tax as being “useless” and “destructive,” and saying that it “didn’t actually help the environment.” The tax was described as a $9 billion “handbrake” on the Australian economy.

The Australian government has since done another about-face on this issue after the conservative government suffered a backlash in national elections earlier this year. Its current Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, announced his decision to have Australia’s main science body re-focus its efforts on climate research. Hopefully, they will employ due diligence before advocating for the renewal of previous energy concepts.

Increased doubts about renewable energy policies and their costs aren’t just limited to foreign countries.

My office recently received a letter from California Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) cautioning Oregon officials regarding the potential “negative effects” of a proposal to consolidate the electrical grid of the western United States.

In his letter, Vidak states the need for such a plan is caused, at least in part, by climate policies adopted by the State of California. He wrote that California’s interest in consolidating electrical grids “would appear to be to get someone to buy our excess renewable power.” Neighboring states like Oregon, he wrote, “seem like the easiest people to sell it to.”

Vidak validates his suspicion by describing a confirmation hearing that took place in the California Senate for one of Governor Jerry Brown’s key energy advisors. That advisor apparently stated, on the record, that part of the strategy to regionalize the grid is to enable California to force the “retirement of coal” and “leverage its policies” on other states.

“Essentially this regional grid could allow California to dictate decisions that could decimate energy independence and jobs in your state,” Vidak warned. “California is not just going to give this electricity away for free; someone is going to have to pay a premium for it.”

To bolster his point, Vidak cited data from the U.S. Department of Energy stating that due to environmental mandates, Californians pay around 15.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Ratepayers in the other ten western states, including Oregon, currently pay between 7.4 and 10.4 cents.

“In the last several years, Californians have seen our energy costs skyrocket out of control,” he wrote.

Oregon has already moved forward with policies similar to those of California and Australia. All indications are the Democrat majority plans to continue doubling down on them. As previously mentioned, a cap and trade bill that was proposed during the 2016 session will likely be introduced again in 2017. A “clean diesel” bill that is likely to decimate the agricultural and heavy construction industries is also virtually certain to be introduced next year.

Overall, Vidak wrote that he was hoping to inform me, and other Oregon legislators, of the “unintended consequences” of “pie-in-the-sky promises” made by proponents of these policies.

My hope is that my legislative colleagues will heed his advice.

Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls